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Inauguration Tix: Not Quite VIP Access

(CBS/Stephen Smith)
WASHINGTON - Avis Berman won the presidential sweepstakes. The New Yorker entered Rep. Carolyn Maloney's lottery and was lucky enough to score two tickets to Barack Obama's inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

But her "silver seating" access didn't exactly shield her from the day's mayhem. Berman and fellow New Yorker Janis Conner found themselves at the whim of the human tide as they fought their way to Mr. Obama's inauguration ceremonies. Then after being denied access at multiple subway stations, it took them 4 1/2 hours to get home.

"No one was out there telling us what was happening," Berman said, sipping a beer after the arduous trip home. "It was serendipity whether you got there or not."

Finally, Berman and Conner were able to find their destination - but not until they cleared a very friendly security checkpoint.

"I got thoroughly patted down," said Conner of her frisking. "Then I gave (the security guard) a hug. I figured it was tit for tat."

Despite the gropes and gridlock, the two said the ordeal was well worth it and their silver seating area on 3rd Street had ample room to move about. They said one of the most entertaining aspects was seeing who got the most cheers (Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy) and who got the most jeers (the outgoing president and VP).

"There was a great cheer when Bush took off in the helicopter," Conner said.

Meanwhile, native Washingtonian Gretchen White (pictured) staked out a spot at the World War II Memorial - a location much farther from the stage and much more crowded. But like Berman and Conner, White said there was camaraderie amid the chaos.

"I felt like we were in this together," she said.

White praised Mr. Obama's speech, relished the crowd reactions and singled out Reverend Joseph Lowery's benediction as the day's highlight. And even though she didn't have tickets or a front-row seat, she was perfectly content.

"I had the common woman's experience," White said, "and it was fantastic."
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for